Plant Poisoning, Caladium, Dieffenbachia, and Philodendron Clinical Presentation

Updated: Nov 23, 2016
  • Author: Jennifer S Boyle, MD, PharmD; Chief Editor: Timothy E Corden, MD  more...
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Presentation

History

In patients with exposure to Caladium, Dieffenbachia, or Philodendron, assess the usual important features associated with toxic environmental exposure, as follows:

  • Identification of the substance – If possible, ask the parents to bring in a sample of the plant; plants often are known by various names, both common and scientific, and identification of the plant is greatly aided by the presence of the plant or a portion of it
  • Time and amount of exposure
  • Symptoms – Chewing on these plants usually results in immediate burning sensation and irritation of the oral mucosa, which generally deters any further exposure
  • Prior treatment – Patients may have been instructed to try demulcifying agents (eg, cold milk, ice cream) or may have taken analgesics prior to presentation
  • Associated injuries – Inquire about any other potential exposures or injury; often, more than one plant is present in the immediate vicinity; children also may have fallen or bitten their lips in association with the pain or swelling
  • Preexisting conditions - Inquire about past medical history, medications, and allergies
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Physical

Assess airway patency; however, swelling severe enough to cause airway compromise is extremely uncommon. Breathing and circulation are usually unaffected.

Children who chew the leaves develop immediate burning and irritation of the oral mucosa, which may be red and edematous. [4] Many children exhibit mild transient drooling. Severe swelling, drooling, dysphagia, and respiratory compromise have been reported but are not common.

Cutaneous exposure can cause redness and irritation but is not nearly as common as oral exposure caused by chewing.

Ocular exposure may result in eye pain, redness, and lid swelling.

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